SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara shot just 38.5% from the field and trailed Cal Poly by five points at halftime of Saturday's renewal of the Blue-Green Rivalry and that was the good news.
The Gauchos (7-10 overall, 3-3 in the Big West) survived an 83-81 double overtime thriller over their Blue-Green Rival Cal Poly (7-9 overall, 3-3 in the Big West) despite losing sophomore Alan Williams, their leading scorer and rebounder, to a left leg injury with just over six minutes to play in the first half when he landed hard after committing a foul while contesting a Mustang shot.
"We're not sure how serious it is," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "He will have a scan just as soon as he can and then we'll know more."
While Williams' injury gave the Gauchos something to frown about early, the way the game finished gave them something to smile about.
Both teams struggled through an ugly first half with the Mustangs matching UCSB miss-for-miss, shooting just 29-percent, but the second half and the two overtimes were a different story.
Cal Poly freshman Reese Morgan scored nine of his career-high 26 points in the first half to help his team lead by as many as nine points. He finished with a career-high seven three-pointers and was a major reason that the Mustangs maintained their lead until a Sam Beeler lay-up, off of a perfect feed from T.J. Taylor, gave Santa Barbara 55-54 lead with 5:47 left in regulation.
Morgan answered Beeler's basket with one of his three-pointers to vault the Mustangs back into the lead, 57-55. UCSB's Taran Brown followed suit, drilling a long three-pointer from above the key to give his team a 58-57 edge. After a defensive stop, Brown hit Beeler for another running lay-up to push the Gauchos' lead to 60-57 with 4:36 to play.
Cal Poly, however, wasn't done. Joel Awich was fouled while driving to the basket and made both free throws, narrowing the gap to 60-59. UCSB then turned the ball over and Dylan Royer hit pay-dirt with a three-pointer from deep in the left corner, giving the Mustangs a 62-60 lead.
A pair of free throws by Nate Garth knotted the contest at 62 apiece with 2:52 left, but Chris O'Brien made 1-of-2 shots from the line with 1:48 to play, reclaiming the edge for the Mustangs. After Beeler made 1-of-2 free throws, Morgan made another three, giving Cal Poly a 66-63 advantage with just over a minute to play.
Then it was time for Brown, who had struggled with his three-point shot for much of the game, to hit his first of the game with 40 seconds to play, tying the score. The Mustangs' Jamal Johnson missed a shot with four seconds left and Garth rebounded as time ran out.
Brown started the first overtime by nailing his second three-pointer, giving the Gauchos a 69-66 lead. Cal Poly pulled to within 69-68 when Brian Bennett made a lay-up with 3:26 to play and then took a 71-69 lead on a Morgan jumper with 1:17 left in the first overtime. UCSB tied the score at 71-71 when freshman Mitch Brewe took a feed from Garth and scored on a lay-up with 11 seconds to play.
Both teams got a shot a game-winner in the final seconds of the first overtime, but neither scored.
The second overtime was a see-saw affair. The Mustangs assumed the lead at the outset as Bennett made a short jumper from the right side of the key. Garth made a pair of free throws to tie the score at 73-73 with 4:32 to play, but Chris Eversley answered back with two free throws for the Mustangs, giving them a 75-73 advantage with 3:42 remaining.
A Kyle Boswell jumper tied the score at 75-all with less than three and a half minutes left. Bennett was fouled shooting a short jumper and made two free throws with 2:56 remaining, giving the Mustangs a 77-75 lead.
On the next possession, Morgan fouled UCSB's Michael Bryson, and the Gaucho freshman calmly went to the free throw line and made a pair of free throws to knot the score at 77-77. Cal Poly re-claimed the lead, 79-77, at the 1:18 mark of the second overtime when Royer was fouled driving to the basket and made both free throws.
Just seconds later, with 1:06 to play in the game, Boswell made the first of his two huge plays for the Gauchos. He accepted a pass above the top of the key with just 1:10 to play, took a hard dribble and attempted a three-pointer. He was fouled on the shot by Awich and went to the line for three free throws. Boswell made all three charity shots, giving UCSB an 80-79 lead with 1:06 to play.
Cal Poly, however wasn't done. After a timeout, the Mustangs got the ball to Drake U'u who curled off a pick, beat a Gaucho defender and went in for a lay-up, giving the Mustangs an 81-80 lead.
After a Santa Barbara timeout, it was Boswell with more heroics as he took a pass from Garth, made a lay-up and was fouled. He made the free throw to give the Gauchos an 83-81 lead with just seconds to play. A final jumper by Eversley fell short and the game was over.
"This game was decided on the backs of Kyle (Boswell), Nate (Garth), Taran (Brown) and a bunch of kids," Williams said. "I thought the job that Mike (Bryson), Mitch (Brewe) and Sam (Beeler) did was phenomenal. Defensively, those guys really had to step up. Mike (Bryson) taking on Eversley and holding him to 4-for-17 was huge. He grew-up today and that was a big reason why we won."
Bryson finished with 10 points, five rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals. Boswell tied his career-high with 23 points. After struggling for much of the game, Brown had 15 points, seven rebound and two blocked shots. Brewe had a career-high 10 points, three rebounds and two assists. Beeler had five points, six rebounds and two blocked shots. Garth had eight assists and just two turnovers while T.J. Taylor had five assists.
While Eversley struggled with his shooting for the Mustangs, he had a double-double with 16 points and 15 boards.
The Gauchos have won two straight games for just the second time this season. They will host Cal State Northridge on Thursday, Jan. 24 in a 7:00 p.m. game. Their Saturday Jan. 26 game against Hawai'i has been moved from 7:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. to accommodate Fox Sports Prime Ticket, which will televise the contest.
Tickets for all UCSB game are available from the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or online by clicking......HERE!